Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has urged Government to ensure the new National Tertiary Office keeps cross-border opportunities between Atlantic Technological University and third-level institutions in the North as an integral part of its work.
In an exchange with Minister Simon Harris in the Dáil, Deputy Pringle said: “I think it is a very welcome development and is something that provides huge potential.”
However, he said that in a Donegal context, “we were here before. And unfortunately, things fell by the wayside and the development of the ATUs forced the looking away from the cross-border element.
“We need to get back to that and that’s why this is a very welcome development,” he said.
Speaking during oral parliamentary questions to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Deputy Pringle asked Minister Harris how he saw the development of the newly formed North West Tertiary
Education Cluster, which involves Donegal ATU, Donegal ETB, Ulster University and the North West Regional College, to the benefit of both sides of the border.
In his response, the minister thanked Deputy Pringle for raising the issue on a regular basis.
The Minister said the cluster, launched last October, builds on a very strong history of further and higher education collaboration in the region. He said the recently established National Tertiary Office within the Higher Education Authority and
Solas has been charged with looking at how new further and higher education degree programmes can be developed. The minister said an additional €2 million has been set aside this year in ongoing funding to underpin the work of the office.
Deputy Pringle said: “With the formation of the new tertiary office we want to make sure that we don’t go back to looking back from the border again in the future, that no matter what happens, that the development for the region is going to take place regardless. That has to be an integral part of this new tertiary office as well, because this office will have a lot of things to look at on a national basis, but I think the cross-border element has to be a very important and signature part of it.”
The deputy said: “I believe there’s huge potential there and it has been growing continuously through the support of Donegal County Council and North West Region Cross-Border Group.
“I would emphasise again – and I know it’s not your intention and I hope it’s not the intention of the office – but that the office would always look at an all-island basis and not turn its back on that.”
“Deputy Pringle said: “I believe Letterkenny, Derry, Strabane have huge potential as well and education has to be a vital part of that to make that work and make that happen. There are already thousands of Donegal students in Derry in the North West Regional College, so it’s happening on the ground and we just need to make sure that it will keep on growing.”
The Minister said he agreed with the importance of the cross-border element. He also said that from conversations he has had with University of Ulster, ATU, the Shared Ireland unit and others, there is a strong and exciting pipeline of projects they can do together coming from both institutions.
The Minister said he would love to visit the Letterkenny and Killybegs campuses of ATU and said he would be in touch with Deputy Pringle to arrange the visit.”
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